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When can you sue the government?

Lawyers are often asked when an individual can sue the government.  For example, if an individual is injured on public property is the government liable?

That is a hard question to answer because there are various ways the government may or may not be liable for somebody’s injuries.

First, an individual must consider whether the conditions of the area they were injured on are particularly dangerous.  To prove this the plaintiff, the person bringing suit, must show a few things:

  1. The property was in dangerous condition at the time of the injury
  2. The dangerous condition was the cause of the injury
  3. The dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the type of injury the individual sustained
  4. The city had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition “a sufficient time prior to the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous conditions.

A dangerous condition is defined as “a condition of property that creates a substantial (as distinguished from a minor, trivial or insignificant) risk of injury when such property or adjacent property is used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used” Gov. Code 830.  The plaintiff needs to establish at least one specific physical characteristic of the property they were injured on that qualifies as a dangerous condition. A dangerous condition that is not reasonably apparent to someone who is exercising due care is referred to as a “trap”.  A “trap” usually results when “a public entity fails to post signs or warnings of a dangerous condition on the property” such as a sharply banked curve that is not immediately apparent to a driver or a pothole on the road’s surface.

If the plaintiff can prove that physical characteristics of a property made it dangerous even to individuals exercising due care, that is enough to qualify as a dangerous condition.

The government can be liable for these dangerous conditions when it fails “to provide adequate safeguards against a known dangerous condition” such as not posting signs or warnings.  It can not be liable for merely having a dangerous condition on its property or even because it created the condition.  Only if the plaintiff can prove common-law negligence on the part of the employee who created the condition or lack of notice.  A public entity is also responsible to take reasonable precautions to protect children from risks of injury.

However, a public entity can avoid liability for injuries  caused by a dangerous condition if it can establish:

  1. A casual relationship between the plan or design and the accident
  2. Discretionary approval of the plan or design prior to construction
  3. Substantial evidence supporting the reasonableness of the plan or design

A plaintiff can discredit a public entity’s design immunity if they establish three things:

  1. The plan or design has become dangerous because of a change in physical conditions
  2. The public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition thus created
  3. The public entity had a reasonable time to obtain funds and carry to the necessary remedial work to bring the property back into conformity with a reasonable design or plan, or the public entity, unable to remedy the condition due to practical impossibility or lack of funds, has not reasonably attempted to provide adequate warning

Cases involving suing the government are very complex.  The government has at their disposal many specific immunities and claim requirements.  Do not attempt to do this battle alone!

If you, a friend, or a loved one has been injured on public property call the Law Offices of Keith J. Stone.  Keith Stone and his team have worked on many of the types of cases and will provide a consultation on your case, as well as assist you in locating appropriate medical services.

The San Diego-based Office of attorney Keith J. Stone serves the following areas in Southern California:

San Diego, Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Ventura Counties including the cities of:

San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Riverside, Chula Vista, Irvine, Glendale, San Bernardino, Huntington Beach, Oxnard, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Oceanside, Rancho Cucamonga, Santa Clarita, Garden Grove, Ontario, Pomona, Palmdale, Pasadena, Corona, Torrance, Escondido, Lancaster, Orange, Fullerton, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, El Monte, Inglewood, Costa Mesa, Downey, West Covina, Victorville, San Buenaventura (Ventura), Norwalk, Burbank, Carlsbad, Temecula, South Gate, Murrieta, Mission Viejo, Rialto, Compton, El Cajon, Carson, Vista, Westminster, Santa Maria, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Hawthorne, Alhambra, Hesperia, Whittier, Newport Beach, Chino, San Marcos, Buena Park, Lakewood, Indio, Baldwin Park, Chino Hills, Blythe

Keith J. Stone also handles cases originating elsewhere in California and across the USA.

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